Norwich Township residents near a proposed 10-turbine wind turbine farm are still angry at the way the project is proceeding.
“It’s a very frustrating thing to deal with,” said Keith Leeson, who attended Wednesday night’s Prowind Canada Inc. open house at the Quality Hotel and Suites in Woodstock.
Leeson was upset at what he called a lack of public disclosure when the on Gunn’s Hill Road project was first announced in August 2008. He said employees from the company Prowind hired to lead the project’s environmental assessment later began working for them. Rochelle Rumney, an environmental assessment specialist, and Juan Anderson, a wind energy consultant, then worked for M.K. Ince and Associates, a renewable energy and environmental consulting company out of Dundas, Ontario, but are now a part of the Prowind team.
Leeson believes the public should have been notified when the change happened.
Some of Leeson’s other concerns with Prowind include a met mast – a measurement tower used to monitor wind speeds and other meteorological occurrences – he claims was built before proper permits were in place and the absence of two registered air strips owned by George Rand on Prowind’s map of the area.
According to Rand, two turbines are to be constructed near the end of each air strip, which will cause problems for small aircraft that are unfamiliar with the area. The placement of each turbine was done without consulting him about the air strips at all, Rand said.
The open house at the Quality Hotel was a way for the company to share project details with the community while fielding questions from the public, Prowind president Jeffrey Segal said. The company also brought in experts to answer questions about the health and environmental impacts of wind turbines.
However, the local opposing group – East Oxford Community Alliance – said the health experts weren’t covering important information that residents needed to know.
“In terms of health information, what they provide is selected literature,” said Joan Morris, a member of the group.
The EOCA held an open house at the Quality Hotel at the same time “to ensure members of the public are not limited to the information provided by the developer” and to talk with independent researcher Carmen Krogh. Krogh has studied wind turbines for more than four years and was on hand to share information she has accumulated. Studies done in other countries such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and some parts of the United Kingston suggest that a two-kilometre distance between wind turbines and residential units should be the minimum, she said. Otherwise, residents could experienced both psychological impacts – mood disorders – and physical impacts – headaches, nausea, vertigo and sleeping troubles – that could lead to more serious side effects. Krogh said her part in wind studies has been from the health-issue perspective and not about support for or against wind energy.
“What we need to do is move things away from residents,” Krogh said. “Prowind is following the government’s rules, so maybe (the government) should re-evaluate the distance.”
However, Chris Ollson, an environmental health scientist with Intrinsik Environmental Sciences, a firm hired by Prowind, had a much different take on these setbacks. While agreeing with Krogh that being too close to a wind turbine or having too high a noise level can have negative effects on health, he differed on what is “too close” or “too loud.”
“The World Health Organization has said (550 metres and less than 40 decibels) is a good guideline for a good night’s sleep,” he said. “Participating land owners haven’t reported problems, and they would be closer (to the turbine as the structure is on their property).”
Ollson said it’s also a matter of “visual cue and attitude,” where someone’s outlook regarding wind turbines affects their annoyance level. According to a European study, wind turbines are no more or less annoying than other rural noises, he said. The level of annoyance with the noise increased if they were initially against the construction of the wind farm, Ollson explained.
As for Norwich Township officials, who unanimously passed a resolution at the end of September asking Prowind to postpone the development of the Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm “until the results of the provincial and federal Wind Turbine Noise and Health Studies are available,” there’s not much more they can do.
“(We’ll be) making comments along with other agencies,” CAO Michael Graves said. “But we don’t get the final yea or nay.”
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